November 18, 2009

Palin Palavers

Last night, while walking home from Canoe Club with a friend, I predicted that humanity will have destroyed itself long before Frank Sinatra goes out of style. If we accept that to be true, I’d like to propound another prognostication: that Frank Sinatra will go out of style long before Sarah Palin is ever elected to national office.

In fact, despite how much her willing warriors may wish it, I’m not even sure she wants the Oval Office. If she does, she’s certainly not acting like it. Since “going rogue” on John McCain, she’s tripped over her own feet running to the far right wing of the Republican Party. And that pales in comparison to her decision to stamp “quitter” across the top of her resume this past July. Yes, she is enjoying widespread celebrity and secured one of the largest book deals in history; but it takes more than that to win an election. Sarah Palin is, then, either an epically good self-promoter or an epically bad politician. Or both.

For a moment, we’ll entertain the possibility that it’s the last option. The case for a Palin run on the presidency is not without merit. Her book tour, conducted in a conveyance vaguely reminiscent of those seen so often in the corn fields of Iowa and frozen mountain passes of New Hampshire, guarantees Palin more time in the national spotlight. And even after resigning the keys to the governor’s mansion, Sarah has not shied away from politics, opting instead to attempt a remolding of her party in her own image (see special election, New York 23rd).

Where Palin has increased her level of support among the conservative base, she has lost the trust of independents who were once willing to give her a shot. For every conservative she wins over, she’ll lose three independents in Ohio and every Democrat from the not-so-real areas of America. Public opinion research already shows the diva of conservative dogma with a negative net approval rating at -14 percent. And for a practical application of her doctrinaire powers, see how effective she was at electing a Democrat for the first time since the Civil War in upstate New York.

Politics and popularity are almost always very different games to play, and in the harshest terms, Sarah is a political loser. While both she and John McCain were victims of a larger trend in the American mood, Palin rallied the base whilst driving independents to the unpatriotic camp of Barack Obama, that friend of terrorism and all things Socialist. Take note of who won last November.

It’s fitting that Palin subtitled her book, “An American Life,” for only in America could a small town mayor who cannot name a single major American newspaper come within one hundred yards and one heartbeat from the presidency. And that level of social mobility is not a negative; it’s part of what makes the American story as singular as it is shared by all.

But the buck must stop somewhere, and for Sarah, it will stop shy of the oval office. The glitz and glamour of her celebrity might distract from her declining national brand, but come next fall when she ramps up her political machine for a run on Washington (or more appropriately, a run on Cedar Rapids and Nashua), she will realize that the American people would rather see her as a personality, not a president.

But don’t worry, Sarah: Frank Sinatra was never president, either.


  1. Anonymous10:06 PM

    Sinatra did, however, share a girlfriend with a President. So what does this mean for Todd?

  2. Great post, Brice. Witty, good use of rhetoric, and spot-on analysis. I particularly like your line "But the buck must stop somewhere, and for Sarah, it will stop shy of the oval office." The very possibility of Palin having authority over anyone but her biological family is deeply troubling to me and haunts me late in bed worse than any nightmare.

    I think the Palin-problem presents an interesting tactics vs. strategy issue for the Democrats. For every moderate Republican the Democrats defeat electorally, the power of conservatives in government decreases, but the power of conservatives in the GOP increases. Radicalization -- not re-branding or reinvention -- is the way to win, the Palinites will say. It sounds crazy but maybe it is in the liberals' strategic interest to take it easy on GOP moderates in order to help them retake the party. Alternatively, if Obama can create a Democratic coalition on the order of the New Deal, such bizarre solutions would be unnecessary.